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Arizona police chief fired after verbal exchange with mayor

South Tucson Police Chief Michael Ford (South Tucson Police Department Photo)

SOUTH TUCSON, Ariz. — South Tucson Police Chief Michael Ford was fired a day after South Tucson Mayor Ildefonso Green publicly blamed him for being a source in a series of negative news articles.

Green criticized the media during the city council’s meeting Monday night, saying recent articles focused too heavily on proposed cuts to police and fire staffing and not on other budget proposals.

Green accused Ford, who was fired Tuesday after being chief since December 2014, and other staffers of leaking information after the city’s budget problems became known.

“All of sudden we had individuals running to the media,” Green said at the meeting. “They were saying to the media that we are going to lose our fire department, we are going to lose our police department.”

Green called on Ford to give his thoughts. Ford said the information in news stories came from public discussions, not leaks.

“That is not true,” Ford said. “The only information we had to communicate (to the public) came at these meetings, and that is the same information that went out to the media.”

The two argued back and forth for several minutes before Ford left the room, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Green instructed staff he wanted to talk to Ford, labeling his comments as “insubordination.”

The discussion resumed after the meeting.

Council members Oscar Patino and Anita Romero argued with Green for about 10 minutes from the floor of the council chambers about the issue. Councilman Robert Larribas listened nearby.

City Attorney Bobby Lu was present but did not speak or attempt to end the conversation, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

With four members present discussing city business outside of a formal meeting, this is a violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law, said Dan Barr, attorney for the First Amendment Coalition.

City Manager Sixto Molina told Ford Tuesday morning he was being fired for poor work performance, Ford said.

Molina confirmed to the Arizona Daily Star that the Ford had been fired, but said he could not discuss the reasons why.

South Tucson Police Lt. Kevin Shonk will temporarily serve as the acting police chief, Molina said.

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